If Jesus had died and been buried - and not risen from the tomb - that need not necessarily have been the end of the story. It is quite likely that - once things had quietened down, His tomb would, like that of other great people have become a place of pilgrimage. His disciples could have been in demand as guides - making their reputations as "people who had walked with the great man".

It would, in many ways, have made a more comfortable ending if Jesus had been laid to rest - and the rest could have been history.

The problem was that it did not happen like this.

The disciples were not expecting Jesus to rise again. He may have given hints - but they did not pick them up. Why should they? People don’t rise from the dead - even Lazarus had been called forth by Jesus - so who was going to call Jesus forth...?

It is very interesting that it was a group of women who first found the tomb empty. They were afraid - and entrusted with a message that didn’t make sense - and, at first, no-one believed them - the word of women was not considered as sound evidence in the courts of the day - and obviously, not among the disciples either!

Peter and John did take the risk of going to see for themselves

- and were faced with the puzzle of the empty tomb. Where had Jesus gone? They began to glimpse the possibility that Jesus might have risen from the dead - but were still unsure.

It was Mary Magdalene who was still trying to work out where He was - and who asked the gardener to be shown - who first encountered the Risen Jesus. The fact that she did not recognise Him at first suggests that she was not expecting ever to see Him again - and it is only the calling of her name which awakens her soul to the wonder of what has happened.

Her reaction is one we can understand - here is the man she saw in agony on the cross less than 72 hours ago - who she saw dead and pierced by a spear. And yet, here is the One she has loved and followed for three years - obviously alive - and more than well. It is an encounter that is unlike any other of the resurrection appearances - where people are afraid to touch - Mary, it is suggested hugged and embraced the Risen Lord so hard,that He had to tell her in the end to let go.!

An encounter between two people - one still bound in an earthly body - the other in a body that would never die again.

When the disciples were eventually convinced - their proclamation that Jesus was risen met with confusion - and the rumour that they had stolen the body. This, in itself, proves that the tomb was in fact empty - as the authorities could not produce the body and prove them wrong!

The disciples would have had an easier time building up the image of Jesus as a great man - but instead were charged with the task of proclaiming a risen one....and where do you start with that?

Well, the first place is the certainty of resurrection. They knew Jesus - they had walked with Him - they were the witnesses to the fact that He was still Jesus - but Jesus in a new glorious body. Is it likely that a group of despondent demoralised people would have the energy to proclaim such a thing if they had not experienced something beyond human understanding.

Knowledge would have left them wondering by an empty tomb - stepping over the threshold into Mystery enabled them to meet and recognise their risen Lord.

Drinking from the Wellspring

  • Choose one of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' appearances after the resurrection.
    Try to put yourself into the events as they are described....
    How did the other people present feel?
    How do you feel as you meet this man risen from the dead?

  • What would be different if we had the tomb to visit - with Jesus still in it?

1999 Wellspring

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